From Sunken Ships to Auction: Caribbean Coin Collection

Abolition-of-Appreticeships-medals_main-pgDebbie Ransome writes about a coin collection that will be on display and up for auction on April 3, 2014, in London. The items that will be on display are believed to form the largest Jamaican collection to be offered at auction. It includes 3,000 pieces, all with a Jamaican theme. [The 1838 coins (left) mark the abolition of Negro apprenticeship.]

Jamaica is known for many things – Bob Marley, reggae, Usain Bolt and even its bobsleigh team. But it’s never been known for its coin collections. An auction house in London is hoping that this is about to change. Before you say “pieces of eight” and do your best pirate imitations, bear in mind that these pieces will be raising thousands of pounds in London, come April. The collection is a vast one – the coins, tokens and medals cover three centuries of Jamaican history.  From the 1600s to the 1960s: They start with the 17th Century salvaging of a hoard of Spanish silver through to a medal awarded to a Jamaican journalist in the 1960s.

So how did the collection come together? Jamaican Raymond Brandon started like many children – a stamp collector who went after Commonwealth stamps and coins in his early childhood. By the time he’d finished, he was rooting out maps, old prints, old photographs… and more coins. By his death in 2002, Raymond Brandon was the President of the Jamaica Historical Society and a member of the Caribbean collectors’ group ERIK.

The collection will be on display and up for auction on 3 April in London. Auctioneers Dix Noonan Webb told Caribbean Intelligence© that they do not just expect the stereotypical rich buyers and collectors. Items start at £50.

[. . .] Mr Brandon himself started with a stamp collection but, in later years, took part in the search of a dry river bed in Jamaica’s original capital, Spanish Town, as well as scouring the world’s auction houses and salerooms. Dix Noonan Webb, which specialises in coins, tokens and commemorative medals, describes Raymond Brandon as a “one-off”.

The items are believed to form the largest Jamaican collection to be offered at auction. It includes 3,000 pieces, all with a Jamaican theme.

[. . .] “It is quite unusual to come across such collections,” the head of the coins department at Dix Noonan Webb, Christopher Webb, told Caribbean Intelligence©. “Caribbean artifacts are not auctioned all that often. From September 2010 onwards, Dix Noonan Webb sold the amazing collection of West Indian coins built up by the late Edward Roehrs in three auctions.”

One of the rare pieces and likely to appeal to the Pirates of the Caribbean lover in all of us is a silver medal struck in 1687, to commemorate the recovery of a fortune in silver that had gone down with the Spanish ship Nuestra Senora de la Concepcion. The ship sank in the Silver Banks Passage between what are today the Turks & Caicos Islands and the Dominican Republic. When the sunken silver, worth £300,000, was recovered in the 17th Century, King James II knighted the head of the expedition, William Phipps, and had a silver medal struck to mark the occasion.

[. . .] The collection also includes a large number of anti-slavery medals, including one to mark the 1840 Anti-Slavery Convention held in London. There’s also a copper medal produced in 1838 to celebrate the Abolition of Negro Apprenticeships in Jamaica. It depicts the head of William Knibb, a missionary schoolmaster in Jamaica, who helped to promote the Baptist missionary growth in Jamaica until his death in 1845.

For those of you not paying attention to your Caribbean history, the Great Jamaican Slave Revolt led by Sam Sharpe and the growing pressure on slavery led to the colonial planters blaming the Baptist churches as a base for the slaves’ rebellion. [. . .]

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